COMMENTARY | Some have now raised the question of whether Mitt Romney brought notes to the debate, something that is prohibited by debate rules. Each candidate was given paper and pen, which were on their lecterns, but Romney, at about 9 seconds (it’s easy to miss) quickly and discreetly whips something out his pocket, puts it on the lectern, and seems to unfold it. Here is the same section of video, slowed.
It is difficult to say, from the video, what he pulled out of his pocket. At about 1:26:38 of C-SPAN’s video, it appears that he uses a handkerchief, so it’s possible that the item he removed from his front pants pocket was that handkerchief. You can’t really tell whether he takes it from the lectern or his pocket, as the shot is too tight, but his campaign has said that it was a handkerchief.
I cannot say, definitively, in good conscience, that Mitt Romney cheated. I just can’t know from the information I have. It’s worth noting that Romney’s campaigns’ assertions, given the number of plain falsehoods from the Romney camp, carry little weight.
Perhaps a close watch of the entire debate might give us a clear answer, but a part of the lectern always appears to be obscured.
Draw your own conclusions. Even as I write this, I don’t know where I stand.
And that’s the problem.
There have been a few times during this election when I’ve been skeptical about information regarding Romney. In some cases, like the “I like being able to fire people” comment, my skepticism was correct, as the statement was wrenched from the real context of benefits of a free market.
In some cases, my skepticism collided with the unavoidable reality that, no that is what Romney said. That was the case with his 47 percent comments, the ones he affirmed after they came out and stood by for weeks, and is now claiming were wrong. That it appears that he’s apologizing because Mitt’s Debate Version, Mitt 12.83, is getting a better reception than the previous Mitt reboots is another thing completely.
So here we are with information that suggests that Romney may have brought notes into the debate, in spite of it violating the rules.
And I cannot completely rule out that possibility. Not only because of the evidence available, but because Mitt Romney, himself, has demonstrated time and time again that he is someone who could be a cheater.
We still don’t have more than two years of his tax returns, and we know that he had offshore accounts. Did he do it to avoid paying taxes, or in essence, cheat the system?
His retirement account has a staggering amount of money, and yet no one can quite figure out how it grew that large. Did he cheat the system?
He took management fees as capital gains rather than as income, therefore paying a far lower rate in a scheme a law professor called “not legal.” Did he cheat the system?
And, of course, candidates cannot bring notes into the debate. Did Romney cheat the system?
Whether he did is nearly irrelevant at this point. The issue is that it’s not outlandish, it’s not outside the realm of possibility, it’s not unthinkable to believe he would do so.
Does it matter if Romney cheated or didn’t cheat? I really don’t think so.
That it’s not an accusation that could be dismissed outright, that’s what really matters.